In recent months there has been a lot of talk about penal reform. In these discussions many have resorted to language that is discriminatory, bias and prejudice to offenders. Whenever Obama or any other of the many elected officials talk about penal reform they are quick to point out the differences between violent and non violent offenders. This is another example of lack of understanding, as it concerns crime and punishment.
It is as if distinguishing between certain crimes justifies the act of committing crimes. As if somehow someway a person that sells drugs is somehow less violent than one incarcerated for murder. According to statistics most law makers, including President Obama, are not informed as to the accurate depiction of crime. What has happened is that nobody wants to be responsible for setting free, what they classify as, violent offenders.
In the case of murderers the recidivism rate is much lower than it is for drug offenders. Drug offenders are often the repeat offenders that commit the violent offense that worries the public. Most violent offenders are sentenced to long term incarceration and when released have out-grown crime. Yet, whenever there is a wave in crime and violence the public outcry we are not keeping violent offenders in prison long enough.
The recidivism rate of short term drug offenders is 70%. That means 7 out of 10 come back. This is a phenomenon I see every week. In the 23 years I have been incarcerated not one of the men who has done long sentences such as myself have every returned to prison. They are guys who have pulled 20 plus years, where incarcerated for violent offense, and took the time to educate themselves while incarcerated. I can count over 30, that I know personally, that are not back.
When I look up every week there is someone that participated in the residential drug program, where one gets a year of their sentence for completion, that is returning back to prison. Some return with new cases, the others for violations. This fallacy that guys that have served long term offenses for violent are somehow more dangerous than short term, non-violent offenders, is absurd. It is the short term “non violent” offenders that are being released earlier and committing all these new violent crimes.
In recent days there has been a surge in violence in DC and I am appalled by how many times I hear someone say this is the fault of violent offenders. In most cases these are drug users, abusers, and dealers engaged in drug wars that reek havoc on the DC community. But somehow it is the fault of people who have been incarcerated for decades.
The new war is the war on violent offenders. It used to be the war on drugs. Which in essence was the war on poor black neighborhoods. The long term prison population, 20 years and better, are the causalities of this war. If there is ever going to be a time to address this wrong it has to start with the victims of that war.
Take the case of the young man high of whatever he was high off that stabbed to death on the metro bus. Or the people driving around raping men. Or the crime wave over the weekend where 6 were killed. What does that have to do with those people who have been locked up since 1988, 89, 90 etc.? How do they play a part in what is going on out in society today? This is the mis-education of Obama and the rest of congress when they take about violent offenders.
Crime is crime and it is a choice. Victimization does not know the difference between violent and non violent. One may argue the point that there are guys in prison serving sentences for drugs and the time does not equal the crime. And, there is a need for reform to balance the scales of justice. If it means granting clemencies, allowing extra good time days, or implementing incentive based programs,
I will be the first to agree. Yet, I would have to argue, in the case of DC parole-able inmates, that we are not asking for time cuts, for extra good days, or sentence reforms that will put them in the street earlier. We are simply asking to be cut loose when our time comes. No one has asked the UPSC to make an exception to the rule for early release. Many of us have done the time, 20 or better years, and have not complained. In fact many of us are grateful for the 20 or 25 years we got considering the time being handed out in DC for similar committed offenses.
There is a need to implement the system of parole that is in place based upon the particulars of individual cases. It is not fair nor just to hold a man in prison, that has been in prison for 2 decades, because some young 20 year old kid, high off K2 decides to commit an act of violence.
For these, and many other reasons these old law, 1987 DC regulations, cases need to be highlighted. Logic has to be applied to the growing concern of the increase of crime. As long as Obama and those that support different treatment for “non-violent” offenders, without regards to those long term offenders, who may have committed violent offense but have served there time, the real issue will never be addressed. Not only will that issue not be addressed but we will create another unnecessary stigma, and fear, for returning citizens. Because of the mis-understanding and mis-interpretation of what is considered violent and non-violent crimes, we are only making it harder for returning citizens to re-turn successfully into the community.
Now is the time to speak up and take action. We cannot, for those of us who remember the campaign on the war on drugs, allow for these stigmas to be placed on offenders. Once the masses begin to view offenders and classify them with these terms, regardless of them having served their time. It will only make things worse. It is if these people have some un redeeming quality about themselves because of the classification of the crimes they have committed.
There is a lot of work that needs to be done. My primary concern is working to fix the way the USPC deals with DC inmates. We have to get the word around that something needs to be done. We have to rally family, friends and love ones around this issue. We have to ask them questions and hold them accountable, by their own guidelines and standards, in order for justice to be served. They have to know that what our loved one may have done 20 something years ago has not bearing on what is going on today, with crime and violence. If our voices are not raised and united, for what is right, this false perception of who and what is effecting crime today, is only going to hurt them in the long run. The USPC need to know that DC inmates have support from their communities: family, friends, and love ones. A silent voice does not get heard.
In upcoming weeks we will be putting together a petition letter. A letter that will address and outline the issues, needs and changes desired for DC inmates. When this comes on-line we are asking for your support to get as many signatures as possible. We are shooting for thousands. So please be on the look out for this petition.